"Alpine Glow" - oil, 16 x 20
With some trepidation, I covered up the deep 'V' valley and oddly enough, I like the results! It is sometimes painful to give up an area that I, the artist likes, but for the sake of the painting it was necessary. You will also notice that I created a purple-ish mist in the valley to diffuse that area even more. More pink colors were added to the foreground of the road and I darkened the shadows there. The photograph makes the background fade more than in the actual painting, which is unfortunate. You also cannot see all of the texture in the painting.
Hopefully, "Alpine Glow" captures a close proximity of the eternal beauty we experienced high in the mountains as well as the potential danger that is but inches away. What are your reactions to the painting?
Thank you for reading. Your comments are appreciated.
Establishing the foreground.
"The trees are leaning!" says my husband as he walks into my studio. Bummer. Don't you hate when that happens? Yet, I am grateful that he noticed and that I still have time to make the correction. I did not want to apply any more paint to those trees in the middle on the right, but I needed them to be straighter and not leaning.
I have been toning down the colors in the first hills of the mountains. This is not an area where I want to draw much attention though I want you to sense the steepness. If you look at the reference photo, you can see how I am down playing it. Thin layers of paint have been applied to soften edges and the colors. Meanwhile, I have been finishing the wildflowers and creating some texture in the road in the foreground. I am wanting you to feel the contrast between the foreground and the eternal background.
The deep 'V' in the lower right quadrant of the painting is becoming too distracting. I want to keep it because I love the drama of it and I had fun creating that area of the painting but it is not the focus of the painting. I am not sure how I will solve the problem. How can I have my cake and eat it too? What would you do? How would you change the composition?
...to be continued.
Early stages of applying paint
Creating technical challenges for myself is a constant. Besides changing my approach to painting, as I mentioned earlier, I am also attempting to apply the correct value and color of paint on my first try. This is not easy to do, particularly since I tend to go back and re-apply paint. The problem with doing the latter, is that the painting can look over-worked and/or muddy. In this painting I basically have one chance on the background mountains and I am happy with my results!
In the photo, you can see that I have started to vary the colors in the grasses and that the trees in the mid-ground are a variety of greens. I have maintained some white areas because I want the pure colors of the wildflowers to show. If you compare this stage of the painting with the reference photo, you can see that I am not going to give the mountain areas a lot of detail, because I want to "push" them way back to give that feeling of deep distance.
At this stage I am still working with my 1" brush and a 1/4" egbert (very extra long filbert) brush.
Are you starting to see and feel the foreground, middle ground and backgrounds?
...to be continued.
First layer of paint
So many choices! Where to begin?
As you can see in this photo of the first layer of paint, I have done some rearranging of the larger shapes from the reference photo. The photo makes you feel like the land is flat, whereas I want you to feel like you are on the road, on a hill looking out into the vastness and beauty of the mountains. Hopefully you will let your imagination soar while realizing you are standing at a great height. While I am painting, I am always striving to create a sense of 3-D, so that you want to go into the painting and be a part of it.
The size of canvas I chose is 16x20. There is nothing magical about this size, but it seemed manageable and the correct size given that I am going to be trying some new approaches to my painting. (I do wonder what this scene might be like to paint on a much larger canvas.) My canvases are always coated with a few layers of white gesso before I begin, using a 6" palette knife to apply the gesso. I create a thin organic texture on the canvas that gives the painting another dimension, though you can not easily see it in these photos. The other reason I coat my canvases is because I do not like the woven texture of canvas - neither the look nor the feel of it.
New painting approach: As a life long learner, I am always trying to challenge myself to be better at painting and communicating my message. For the past couple of years, my paintings had vibrant puzzle looking underpaintings. This painting will not have an underpainting and I will begin with colors closer to the final painting AND I am using a 1" cheap paint brush ($.85) from my local hardware box store. This brush forces me to mix lots of paint and I cannot be real accurate.
My palette is based on the purple-yellow complementary colors, because I want a pinkish-purpleish misty look in the far background. Many landscape painters leave the sky toward the end of the painting, whereas I like to put it in first because I think it sets the tone of the painting. It could also be my years of painting with watercolors where the medium almost requires one to begin with the sky. In actuality, the sky was an azure blue when we were driving, but that color does not create the harmonic feeling I want to convey. Interestingly, it did not come through in the photographs either because the sun was so low in the sky.
What would you have done differently? Where do you think is my central area of interest?
...to be continued.
Reference photo of Stony Pass, CO
Can an artist's life hang on the edge? Yes, literally and figuratively. A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I experienced our first 4x4 trail drive over the continental divide at Stony Pass, CO. We had never been on a 4-wheel drive, except on a Pink Tour in Sedona. With me at the wheel, we drove over rocks & streams, and sustained curves, steep hills, cliff hangers and narrow passages that I did not think possible. (I now have a new appreciation for my Hyundai Tuscon because I did not know her cabilities prior to this drive.) Frightened? You betcha!
Meanwhile, between moments of courage and terror, we experienced sites to behold. As it got later in the day (It took over 3 hours to drive 16 miles.), and we got closer to the peak of Stony Pass (about 12,300ft), the mountain vistas were stellar, the lighting extraordinary. Only a professional photographer could have truly captured the scenes accurately. The contrast of feeling like I was in heaven one moment and then hoping to survive the next was invigorating to say the least.
Sometimes nature presents a landscape so spectacular I wonder if I have the "right" to attempt to interpret it on canvas. How could I, a mere painter, express such beauty? Over the years, I have come to grips with the fact that Mother Nature will always have the upper hand and that my job is to create an interpretation and to express my feelings about my experience. If successful, I then share my vision with you, the viewer.
The photograph here is of one the many scenes we saw while driving Stony Pass. It is one of several reference photos I have. I thought it would be interesting for you to see what I am starting with as I begin my painting, though it is important to note that I have had the advantage of actually soaking in this sight in person and having all of my senses awakened by it.
When you look at this photograph, what might you change compositionally for a painting? Some other questions I must answer before I begin: Why do I want to paint this scene? What do I want to say about it? What is my vision? Where do I want you to look when you come upon the final painting? What will my color palette be? What size of canvas do I use? My next blog post will show and explain to you some of my answers.
....to be continued.